Opinion: What Dr Anthony Fauci’s emails reveal – and what they don’t


Sometimes it feels like reading someone’s diary, even if it is a post-modernist diary written with a non-linear timeline. At other times, it feels like looking at celebrity photos on the front page of People magazine: “He felt that too ?!”

Emails might not always be exciting, but they are real. There is no hagiography here. And we are fortunate to have this inside view of how the scientific enterprise of our country – and its intersection with the rest of our federal government – understood what Covid-19 was, how it s is spread, how to stop it and how to communicate about it.

For many of us, it is fascinating to follow the accumulation, evolution and presentation of scientific knowledge to the public. Some of those who read these emails will no doubt find “errors” – things that have turned out to be wrong since those early days – but I would like to warn everyone, including Fauci’s detractors who are currently digging into them. looking for missteps, remembering that these are only mistakes with hindsight; at the time, no one knew what the truth was.

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Like all of us, Fauci thought early on that the disease was spread primarily through droplets from symptomatic individuals. He, like the rest of us in science, took about a month to figure out that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread was another primary means of transmission, that the disease was spread by aerosols as well as droplets, and that masks are essential, that someone has symptoms.
Fauci’s emails reveal that in early April, he answered a question about why face coverings weren’t recommended with: “This recommendation is pending.” I’m celebrating his willingness to say in March 2020, “Will have to check,” in response to a question from a follow-up doctor about post-infection immunity.

Fauci’s clear leadership skills deserve just as much attention. In those 3,200+ pages we can see him dealing with a huge bureaucracy and its intersection with the executive branch. These emails show a man trying to move quickly but accurately. He maintains an impressive curiosity and willingness to at least stay current with original ideas.

In March 2020, for example, he transmitted correspondence on the possible Covid-19 immunity of indigenous peoples harvesting guano (bat droppings), as well as an idea from a professor of psychiatry on the use of l antibiotic minocycline to slow viral replication. He commented on an email from a Swedish psychiatrist: “Maybe there is nothing to that, but we should at least be aware of it”. And in April of that year, he told a persistent doctor with multiple ideas of possible antiviral agents: “You are not being ignored.”

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It is clear from the consideration he gave to these theories, and the care with which he addressed the public, that Fauci spent time trying to digest the latest information before deciding on the nation.

I find the emails about funding from the Fauci agency particularly fascinating. Over the posts, budget talks shift from small funding increases to huge weekly spending increases – especially when the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was cleared by Congress to dream bigger thanks to $ 1,532. billion dollars in additional spending. credits. To put a more specific point on this group of emails: it was these Biggest Dreams and Biggest Trials that gave us important answers and, ultimately, vaccines.

I also note, of course, what is missing, which is many details of the White House task force. We just get little clues: “Let’s talk about it when we’re together at the 4:00 pm TF meeting,” for example. This story will have to wait. Only occasionally does frustration with the federal government’s response show up in emails, such as when it comments that current Covid-19 tests are “misleading” or defends its presence. public to his scientific colleagues in public health: “I do not bow to anyone other than science and always, always say what I think when it comes to public health.”

Finally, between the lines, we watch him deal with this pandemic as a human. There are emails where he is clearly overwhelmed, forwarding the media request after talking about the request to his assistants in the chief of staff’s office. (One might ask: who would not be overwhelmed by this number of requests?)

There are emails where he’s extremely nice, thanking people for their service, telling staff to “stay healthy and safe” or complimenting people on well-written articles and columns.

Again and again, he responds to concerned citizens, scientists and journalists with: “Thank you for your rating. He pays attention to both people he knows – apologizing to Ralph Nader on a Sunday at 7pm: “I get over 1,000 emails a day and even with staff checking I don’t. not see for days. ” – and the ones he probably doesn’t. There are times he’s funny, times he’s frustrated, and times he’s clearly exhausted, admitting he’s just too tired to make sense of anything.

Throughout, his voice on paper resembles his voice on television. He is humble, curious and committed. My takeaway? He’s like us – or, at least, he’s like most of us like to imagine ourselves to be, in our best days.

I can’t wait to read more.

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